The New Recruit by Jill Williamson
This Christian teen spy novel is the first in a series about fourteen-year-old Spencer Garmon. Spencer’s life is in disarray – he lives with his Grandmother ever since his parents died, and he has no interest in the Christian faith his Grandma is trying to surround him with. All he really wants to do is play basketball and earn a scholarship to escape this life, but his knack for trouble has a way of interfering with his plan. When he’s approached about joining a secret spy organization comprised of Christian’s, he’s not only skeptical of the whole idea but most definitely – not interested.
However, three things help convince Spencer to give the summer spy program in Russia a try.
1 – There are some really cute girls going on the trip.
2 – An ultimatum from his Grandma after he’s been in trouble one too many time – he can either join military school or the Christian spy organization.
3 – Spencer discovers a secret about his parents – they once also belonged to this organization.
This teen spy novel has a great, fun premise – what kid doesn’t dream about being a secret agent? But I must say, this book had me at the lead character’s voice. So fantastic! The author superbly captures a teen boy’s thoughts and words, with the perfect blend of wit, sarcasm and coolness. Really one of the best voices for a boy that I’ve come across.
One note – this book does have a more evangelical point of view than I’m used to reading but overall, it’s an enjoyable book.
McCracken and the Lost Island by Mark Adderley
This is the first book in the McCracken series by Mark Adderley. I’ve heard this series described as “Indiana Jones with a rosary” and that is a great description. This delightful book is perfect for middle school and high school boys who love adventurous novels. It is set in the 1930’s with an interesting group of international characters including the English engineer/inventor McCracken, the lovely Ariadne – a communications expert with an interesting past relationship with McCracken, a French deep sea diver, a Russian pilot and a rich German Baron who gathers them all for an adventure to find a lost island. I thoroughly enjoyed the exciting plot which reminded me of the movie version of “Journey to the Center of the Earth”. McCracken’s strong faith and engineering genius makes this character a fantastic role model for teens.
The Relic of Perilous Falls by Raymond Arroyo
If your child likes the Percy Jackson series they’ll probably enjoy Raymond Arroyo’s action-packed Will Wilder books. The Relic of Perilous Falls is the first book in this series about Will Wilder, a young boy with unique gifts. Will doesn’t realize he has special powers but when he accidentally unleashes some demons in his hometown he learns that there is a secret society of believers that all have special powers to keep people safe from the dark side. There are many unique characters in this book that add a fun element – Will’s Aunt, friends, siblings and parents all help to make this story fast moving and enjoyable.
Saving Mount Rushmore by Andrea Jo Rodgers
Looking for a fun adventure for your older elementary or middle school student? This book might just be what you’re looking for. Saving Mount Rushmore is about a middle school boy, John, who’s upset to have to spend the summer in South Dakota with an Aunt he barely knows. So much for the fun summer he’d hoped for, spent at the Jersey shore with his friends.
Soon after he arrives at his Aunt’s ranch, he finds out that he’ll be part of a special program at St. Michael the Archangel School. Summer school? Really?
But this is no ordinary school. This is a unique program where the students, who each possess special talents, act as secret agents performing good deeds for the country. But what special talent could John contribute? Maybe they made a mistake.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable, fast-moving adventure with some very likable characters that provided lessons in history, as well as positive messages regarding self-confidence, friendships, and faith. I look forward to more exciting stories in this series of books that empower kids and encourage them to think of the special gifts, talents and interests they all possess.
Saving The Statue of Liberty by Andrea Jo Rodgers
The kids from St. Michael the Archangel Academy are on to their next mission – saving The Statue of Liberty. These books by Andrea Jo Rodgers are such a delight and are perfect for older elementary students. I love the adventure, the friendships, the patriotism, and the bits of history that surround these fun stories.
This series of books reminds me of The Magic Treehouse books my children used to read. Through some fantastical unknown ways, the kids of Team Liberty are able to transport to historical monuments and save them from the mischievous and villainous ways of Team Mischief.
These books are such a fun way to learn about history and national monuments and would make a supplement to American history lessons.
Mindwar by Andrew Klavan
Rick Dial once had it all. He was a star athlete with a football scholarship to college, had a loving family and a devoted girlfriend.
Amazing how quickly things can change.
In a short few months, his father has deserted the family and a car accident has left Rick crippled and destroyed his future. Now he’s stuck at home with an annoying little brother, a depressed mother and nothing to do but play video games.
But… he possesses a talent the US government needs. He is called upon to enter a virtual world in order to save the real world.
Author Andrew Klavan is a well-known, best-selling, Christian YA author. I can certainly understand why. Mindwar is one fast-paced, adrenaline inducing, action-packed thrill ride. This novel is part secret-agent thriller, part sci-fi adventure, and is the first book in the Mindwar trilogy.
While this is not a book that I normally would have picked up, I must say, I did enjoy it. The Christian themes are more subtle than in many Christian and Catholic novels, but that could appeal to some readers. I did like that Rick turned to God when he was in need and realized the importance of family.
The Last Thing I Remember by Andrew Klavan
Wow. If you’re about to read this book – hold on for a wild ride. This was such a fast-paced, edge of your seat, page-turner. In case, you hadn’t figured it out yet – I loved this book. I’ve read one other book by Mr. Klavan, and enjoyed it as well, but this one was fantastic.
A great main character, who tries really hard to always do what is right. But when teen, Charlie West, wakes up strapped to a chair, bloodied and bruised, with no idea how he got there, well, you’re just going to have to read the book to find out more.
This is the first in a series that if you enjoy mystery adventures, you will get through quickly.
This book was mainly about Charlie trying to figure out what happened to him, as he thinks back to the last day he remembers, we learn more about him, his family, the girl he has a crush on, and a troubled friend. The flashbacks work perfectly and the action keeps the story moving quickly. Great Christian teen fiction.
Prisoners of War by Sarah Gracia
I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything quite like this debut novel before. This young author combines a creative storyline, Catholic theology, and mental illness into an interesting and compelling story. There is a lot going on in this book – humorous moments, witty dialogue, exciting escapes, dastardly villains, virtuous heroes, and an abundance of faith. In ways, this reminded me of a melodrama play with some over the top moments and quirky incidents. There were moments I wanted to jump in and participate with a YAY, BOO, HISS, or AWW. And then, on top of all that, there is a surprising element of this book – a very powerful message.
Ms. Gracia did a great job of drawing the reader into this futuristic story from the very first page. Prisoners of War is told through the alternating perspectives of Matt, Tara and Age. These young teens are all, in their own ways, strong, smart, and able to fend for themselves. I also loved how the characters had a deep faith and prayed throughout the story. You can tell this author loves her faith and wants to share it with the world. She included several facts about saints and concepts of theology that were fascinating and could make for some great discussion topics.
All that being said, the heart of this story is the mental health perspective. The author, as well as, the character of Tara, suffers from OCD. This is a term we hear thrown around a lot, but most people probably don’t really know much about it. This book does a wonderful job of showing the reader how difficult it is to live with this condition.
The first chapter from Tara’s perspective, Chapter 3, blew me away. To see the daily struggles of this character as she tried to just make it through her day at school, was eye-opening. One paragraph, in particular, jumped out at me.
“Do you ever feel like there are a bunch of wars in life, and we’re all prisoners of war at some point? Whether it’s literally a prisoner of the battlefield, a prisoner of OCD, or a prisoner of anger, we’re all at war. We were all prisoners of war at some point.”
The author actually came up with the idea for this story as she was dealing with her own OCD during high school. What an incredible way to deal with adversity, to put the pain and struggles on paper and share it with others.
Prisoners of War is a first novel. Writing a whole book is not easy, and I’m quite impressed with any young person who accomplishes this task. I hope Ms. Gracia will continue to hone her craft and deliver many more intriguing books in the future. I’m impressed with the strength of this young author to share so much of herself through this story, and I think this book has the potential to give inspiration to other young people who are facing struggles of their own.